By Olmin Leyba
MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine Under-22 football team may miss the services of eligible Azkals mainstays like Amani Aguinaldo for its Southeast Asian Games campaign as the Philippine Football Federation has placed top priority on the senior national team's bid in the Fifa World Cup qualifying tourney, which runs in scheduling conflict with the peninsular meet.
The Singapore SEA Games’ football competition is slated May 29-June 11, a period in which the Azkals are in the heat of their buildup for the first two games in the World Cup qualifiers slated June 11 and 16.
Aguinaldo, along with Kenshiro Daniels, Mark Hartmann, Manny Ott, OJ Porteria and Daisuke Sato have been listed in the 30-man pool for the SEAG but should they be tapped for the WCQ, will be joining the Azkals instead.
“We’ll have to take it up with the two coaching staffs (U-22 team and Azkals). Of course, the priority is the senior national team. But it really would depend on who will be called up for the (Azkals) training and first matches in the World Cup Qualifiers,” PFF general-secretary Edwin Gastanes told the STAR.
“Those not be selected (for the Azkals campaign), in all likelihood, will be in the U-22 (SEAG team).There are many players for the U-22, they have been together for the AFC U-23 tournament, and previous to that, they had a training camp in Japan. They’ve been training silently and we’re arranging local and foreign camps and friendlies before the SEA Games,” said Gastanes.
The PFF exec said the Philippines is not alone in this situation.
"All the Asean countries face the same problem. In fact the Asean Football Federation has requested the AFC to reschedule the World Cup Qualifiers (in order to send the best teams to the SEA Games as well)," he said.
In Phl's initial list for the SEAG team are Luis Cesar Abadia, Ronnie Aguisanda, Nathanael Alquiros, Arnel Amita, Fotch Arboleda, Florencio Badelic, Mark Besana Jaime Cheng, Julian Mariano Clarino, Dominic del Rosario, Curt Dizon, Neil Dorimon, Daniel Gadia, Joshua Jake Grommen, John Kanayama, Nicholas O’Donnell, Paolo Salenga, Francisco Santos, Connor Tacagni, Richard Talaroc Jr., Kennedy Uzoka, Jinggoy Valmayor and Nathaniel Villanueva.
Phl U-22 Coaches Marlon Marlo and Jim Fraser will later trim the list to the Final 20 for the SEAG battle.
The U-22 booters, who are making a return to the SEAG after skipping the last edition, are bracketed with host Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar and Cambodia in Group A of the SEAG.
“Many say the draw was kind to us. But all of the teams have been preparing also,” said Gastanes.